The board-certified and fellowship-trained neurologists with Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, are the leading providers of care for children with neuromuscular disorders, including spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), in Louisville, Kentucky, and Southern Indiana.
Norton Children’s Hospital is the pediatric teaching hospital for the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Our physicians are training the next generation of pediatric specialists.
We’ll determine the severity of your child’s SMA and create a treatment plan that minimizes risk, so your child can get back to being a kid.
Our multidisciplinary team, in partnership with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), sees patients in a single clinic for multiple specialties, including neurology, pulmonology, orthopedics, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.
What Is Spinal Muscular Atrophy?
SMA is a genetic disorder that affects the part of the nervous system responsible for carrying signals from the spinal cord to muscles. As a result, the muscles are weak and shrink (called atrophy). SMA affects muscles that control movements of the arms and legs, as well as breathing and posture.
There are different types of SMA, each with a different level of severity. Children with more severe forms typically start to show weakness in infancy. Children with other forms may not have symptoms until their teen years or into adulthood.
A neurological exam can diagnose SMA. Our team may perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain or spinal cord to evaluate your child for other causes of weakness. Team members may confirm a diagnosis through genetic testing (blood test).
Until 2016, treatment to change the course of SMA did not exist. That is when a therapy to help slow or stop the progression of weakness became available. In some cases, the weakness may even subside. Our neurologists have used this groundbreaking treatment in numerous children.
SMA can cause weakness in the muscles that aid in breathing, requiring the child to have assistance with breathing and coughing. Our team may prescribe noninvasive breathing devices, such as a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) or BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) device. Additional support may include placement of a tracheostomy (a hole in the breathing tube) and use of a ventilator.
Our orthopedic team also will monitor bone health. Children with SMA are at increased risk for scoliosis.